I recently got caught up in a huge conversation on Twitter, when a bunch of Progressives tried to shame someone I follow for asking for donations to attend school.
They insisted it was hypocrisy on her part to ask for help, since it betrayed conservative values. My take was that the principle of Individual Freedom doesn’t preclude conservatives asking for help. She’s free to ask, others are free to help, or not. What would betray conservative values would be complaining about government assistance not being enough to let her be comfortable as she tries to go back to school. Conservatives can, and do, reward people for trying to improve themselves and their family’s lives.
The essential disconnect in that discussion is the Left thinks the Right is against anyone helping anyone, whereas the Right is actually against the notion of the federal government helping anyone, largely because government “help” encourages dependence, which doesn’t actually help people at all.
But that’s not the point I’m trying to make.
I also don’t like the term “conservative” because most of the societal conservatives were trying to conserve are well and truly dead. “The Right” doesn’t work all that well, either, because the Left’s Overton Window incorrectly puts Fascism on the Right, and doesn’t recognize that Alt-Right is a Leftist ideology. This, of course, is based on the idea that the most consistent way to understand the Left and the Right spectra is the Left’s “group/collective rights” versus the Right’s “individual rights.” What I think the Right wants most is to restore our society to the understanding of limited government and expansive individual rights as described by the United States’ Founders and as enshrined in the Constitution as written. Should we call ourselves Restoratives?
But that’s not the point I’m trying to make either.
The conversation proceeded from the discussion of whether accepting help is acceptable for conservatives to other topics, and the most recent and longest-running discussion has been Vouchers and School Choice.
The Progressives are against those, and insist the problem with education in the US is we don’t shovel enough money into the bonfire.
They cite “many studies” that show that Charter Schools don’t work, harp on the failed Charters Schools, and corruption.
I don’t deny those things happen. It seems to me, however, they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Sticking with the current system certainly doesn’t ensure every child is well-educated, or that schools don’t fail, or even avoid fraud, waste, and abuse.
No system is perfect. No solution is perfect. The Left uses those imperfections to fight against the Right’s policy, but then uses an entirely different standard of “if it helps just one person” to support the policy they prefer.
If no system is perfect, then how do we decide what solutions to try?
Here, then, is the foundation of my ideology:
Most human attributes distribute along a bell curve. Height, intelligence, talent, longevity, of course…but the attributes salient to my view are: laziness/industry. Some people work for their ideals, regardless of compensation, but most people work just hard enough to have the quality of life that makes them comfortable.
Discomfort is the source of all change and growth. People will avoid what makes them uncomfortable, and will choose options that make them more comfortable.
Demand for money and material goods is literally unlimited. Willingness to work for them is always limited, but distributed along the bell curve, so as population increases, so will income & wealth disparity. But that’s okay, because people have different motivations and different levels of comfort.
Natural consequences from decisions are the best way to teach people to make good decisions. It means people will suffer from bad decisions, which the Left uses to argue the Right is cold-blooded. What they fail to recognize is that shielding people from the natural consequences of their decisions actually creates and extends misery, because it obstructs people from gaining maturity and learning to make better decisions.
Everyone wants to improve their life a little bit. They want to do better and have more money this year than last year, and they want to feel like they can do better this month than last month. Failing that, they want to hold on to what they currently have. This is how a temporary government benefit becomes an entrenched, permanent interest.
Competition is always good. Competition is an incentive for innovation: finding ways to do the same thing faster and/or cheaper, or finding ways to increase the quality while retaining current costs. Without competition, there is no incentive to cut waste, because everyone wants to retain at least what they already have, right?
Wealth cannot be distributed. Wealth can only be created and destroyed. This is because wealth is partly an attitude (your minimum requirements for life are less than what you have), and partly a sense of satisfaction from being rewarded adequately for creating value.
Money can be redistributed. This is how wealth is destroyed. Receiving money you didn’t earn destroys wealth because you have done nothing to deserve it. Receiving money you didn’t earn engenders defensiveness, ingratitude, and entitlement. Receiving money you didn’t earn reduces the incentive to create value in the world, and is thus corrosive to human spirit.
Moreover, government assistance is set by government policy. At best, it keeps up with inflation. It is not designed to let you be better off than previously. As such, people who depend on govt assistance must turn to other means to improve their life, and too often these other means are fraud or criminal behavior. Thus, receiving government assistance is an inevitable moral hazard in and of itself, due to human nature.
Government regulation can be (and sometimes clearly is) necessary to ensure competition is fair. This is because information is not always freely available, and those providing goods and services often have the power to control or manipulate information for their own advantage. Look no further than the “many studies” that show charter schools don’t work. Those studies are mostly done by those who have a vested financial and socio-political power interest in keeping the public education system exactly as it is. The thing is, with the internet and processing power, information is becoming more and more accessible. For example, many brick-and-mortar store retailers are in financial difficulty because so much is available online. People were hesitant to purchase highly personal items, like clothing, without trying them first, but information availability has found ways to make this easier to accept, and people are embracing it. How this works in education is that it should be easier for parents to locate successful charter schools that fit the needs of their family, if more of them exist. What was once an impossibly-complex problem is now as easy to resolve as Amazon making used books available.
I hope to see a world where even a town of a few thousand has multiple charter schools…instead of one high school of 250 kids, a Voucher system could make it possible to have 5 schools of 50 children each, or even 12 schools of 21 students each, with enrollment at each ebbing and rising according to performance and needs of the parents…maybe some schools doing all their classwork in 2 12-hour day weekends, and others holding classes in the evening instead of the day. Choice is always a good thing.
We should return to following the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, as written; significant changes to how we do things (like abortion rights, social security, etc.) should only be enacted through Amendments to the US Constitution. Yes, that makes it much more difficult to make changes than just getting a handful of judges to make a ruling, but that is actually a good thing. The difference between the Wisdom of Crowds and the Screwups of a Committee are the amount of deliberation and length of processes ideas must survive to become law.
To sum up:
- Incentives influence behavior
- Discomfort is a motivator for change and improvement, comfort reinforces staying the same
- Competition makes everything better
- People making individual choices will always be better than a central govt picking winners and losers
- Information proliferation makes it more and more possible to personalize all sorts of services. Schools of one school and one teacher could be cost-effective in a Voucher system
- Everyone has the right to experience the natural consequences of their behavior. This is the best way to have a mature, independent citizenry
- Wealth is enjoying at least slightly more comfort than you require, earned by your own efforts. As such, wealth cannot be distributed
- Government assistance is inherently morally hazardous
- The nation needs more Tough Love treatment of citizens from government at all levels, even if that seems cold-blooded. Church and other non-govt organizations are the best way to care for those who fail to make good choices, as the help is not permanent, nor entitled
- These points are all perfectly in accord with the nation’s Founders, and this is shown by the wording of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.